While reading through the blog posts on MACUL Space (Michigan’s Educational Technology social networking site), I was tipped off to an idea that takes one of the lamest writing assignments in the history of teaching, and makes it something fun to do. The assignment in question is of course, the dreaded “What I did last Summer” essay. I know that it has it’s roots in providing the teacher a good sense of the students’ writing abilities as well as serves as a way for the students to begin the process of sharing and socializing with unfamiliar faces, but the assignment itself is rather dull.
Andy Losik, the technology teacher that wrote the post to which I refer, put a twist on the assignment by having his students respond to a blog post. Rather than writing in a static environment (their paper), Andy had his students write comments on his blog about what they did over the summer. Not only were they more engaged, but Andy could start checking off Technology Standards the first day of class. Michigan has recently adopted new technology benchmarks based on the NETS, so accomplishing elements of communication and digital citizenship on the first day was a huge achievement.
I took his idea and added a bit of a twist on it. Rather than have the students comment on my blog, I had them create movies about their summer experiences. By using the foreign language movie clips found at Grapheine’s Bombay TV wesbite, my fifth graders have been happily, and humorously, assembling subtitled movies in which Indian actors from classic Bollywood movies are shown in brief clips. They are given dozens of clips to choose from, and can assemble 9 of them in any order they wish. Included within the clips are cheesy James Bond imitators, shady men whispering into phones, women dancing in brightly colored costumes, and hilarious close ups, all of them taken completely out of context. Each clip is a brief 10 or 15 seconds long, and the user has the ability to add subtitles to each clip, creating their very own subtitled Indian movie. The results are often humorous, with one of my students making a movie about how he didn’t read any books over the summer, only to have a clip of a military-type person ordering troops to make the boy read.
It’s also a great way to talk about copyright, acceptable use, and other issues of plagiarism. Since the clips are so short, and many of them obvious infringements on popular Western movies from the 1970s, you can start an excellent discussion on just how poor entertainment can get when copyright laws aren’t enforced.
Great idea Ben! However I am not sure my being introduced to Bambay TV is a good thing. I will give my wife your email so she can “thank” you in advance. Seriously though, my wheels are turning as to how I could create another writing assignment. Your idea trumps mine on the coolness meter by huge amounts.
You also gave me a cool idea for a blog contest. Teachers post their lamest, most boring, over used assignment and ways to bring it back to life are posted in the comments.
Winner gets something (probably pride).
It’d be a fun way to get ideas on livening up various lessons.
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